September 2015 Newsletter

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September's News from Bookbag Towers

Well, they say summer is the silly season but so much has been happening since we last wrote! And so much of what has been happening has tied into the world of books in our thoughts. MPs, given a free vote, rejected an assisted dying bill. And that made us remember beloved Terry Pratchett, who so strongly supported the idea. We miss you, Terry.

We use the word "tragic" a great deal. Perhaps too much. Perhaps we've diluted its meaning. But that meaning sharpened again when we all saw photos of a tiny boy on a beach. Uncomfortable and painful that photo certainly was. Perhaps it was even exploitative to show it. But that photo was a game-changer; a catalyst for a change in opinion. And it inspired YA author Patrick Ness to start a fundraiser for Save the Children in which he promised to match the donations of his followers up to £10,000. He got there in a couple of hours. Hours. Not days or weeks. Hours. And then other authors - too many to mention here - made their own matching pledges. And within a week, the author and reader community had raised £670,000. Yes, £670,000! It was something to behold. As was Patrick himself, live-tweeting and completely overcome. If we didn't love you too much before all this Patrick, we certainly do now.

What else? Oh, yes! A lovely juxtaposition here. New Zealand banned YA novel Into the River by Ted Dawe, after pressure from a Christian group. Here at Bookbag Towers, we got pretty cross about this. But then, Dav Pilkey, creator of Captain Underpants, told his readers that Harold, one of his protagonists, would grow up to be gay. Dav didn't out Harold. He just told about his future, happy self, without comment in as matter-of-fact a way as you could imagine. Here at Bookbag Towers, we gave three cheers and several thumbs up about this.

All in all, then, it's been a busy month. And that's before we read any new stories! If you want to know what we've been reading and what we're recommending to you for September, here we go....

Golden Hour

Our blast from the past this month is Rape of the Fair Country by Alexander Cordell. First written in 1959, it is an unflinching look at the plight of the workers in the coal and iron industries in South Wales in the first half of the nineteenth century. It has compelling writing and a genuinely gripping story. The research to write the book must have been extensive, but Cordell makes it seem effortless: momentous events viewed through the lens of a very human and likeable family. And the good news is that Victor Gollancz have just put out an audiobook version, narrated by one of our favourites, Matt Addis. We recommend both the book generally and this audio narration. Check it out!

Books of the Month

And on to to the new...

In fiction, Luke recommends Where my Heart Used to Beat by Sebastian Faulks.In the early 1980’s, on a small island off the South of France, a Doctor named Robert Hendricks confronts his life – memories of wars, work, loves, and losses. As his history is explored and questioned by his host, Hendricks recalls days in Scottish universities, Italian trenches, mental asylums and windswept beaches. Links to the past are uncovered, and the raw wounds they expose take Hendricks on a search for sanity and raises the question – is life comprised of events themselves, or the way in which an individual chooses to remember them? This is a journey through age, war, love, and the human mind. It's staggeringly beautiful, haunting, moving, and yet more proof of Faulks immense talent.

In non-fiction, John thinks you should take a look at Frost: That Was The Life That Was: The Authorised Biography by Neil Hegarty. Sir David Frost was a towering presence in the world of television for around half a century. From the days when he stormed the barricades of cosy light entertainment at the start of the swinging sixties, to his major political interviews and his position as one of the founding fathers of TV-am, he was a cornerstone of the industry. Without him, the history of broadcasting during that period would surely have been very different. This is a painstakingly-researched biography of the renowned broadcaster, covering his professional and personal life in detail, undertaken with the full cooperation of his family. Sensitively written, with considerable insight, this is an extremely well-rounded portrait of a remarkable career.

For the little ones - and the big ones! - Louise loved Stars: A Family Guide to the Night Sky by Adam Ford, a gorgeous guide to the night sky for families to explore together. If an innovative book and a beautiful piece of art got together and had offspring, the result would probably look a lot like an Ivy Press publication. This publisher never ceases to impress and their books are the kind of ones that you keep to pass onto subsequent generations. This one is truly lovely.

For teens, Jill fell in love with Unbecoming by Jenny Downham. Katie lives with her learning-disable brother Chris and her rather controlling mother. They've recently moved to her mother's childhood town after Katie's father got a girlfriend and a new baby. Katie, a hardworking and dutiful girl, is halfway through her AS levels when everything goes wrong. First up, Katie kisses her best friend Esme. Esme rejects her and, worse still, tells all the mean girls at school what happened. They miss no opportunity to mock and name call. And then a phone call one night brings Mary into their lives... This is a beautiful story of coming-of-age, family secrets and identity. Friendships between the old and the young can be the most formative of our lives and never more so here. Jenny Downham just goes from strength to strength.


We have been chatting to author C B Calico about Dandelion Angel. The four storylines in this, her debut novel, illuminate aspects of borderline personality disorder through the main characters' troubled relationships with their mothers. The interview is a fascinating read and illuminating its own right.

We've talked to Antony Wootten before and he was so cool that we've chatted again. After she finished reading The Grubby Feather Gang Sue couldn't get the characters out of her mind. The book had given her a lot to think about and she had quite a few questions for Antony. Why did he choose the theme of conscientious objection for the first in his planned series of standalone novels for middle grade readers?


We're always on the look out for people to join our panel of reviewers at Bookbag. We need people who understand that the reader wants to know what the reviewer thinks about the book and not just what's written on the back cover. If you think that you're one of these special people that we're looking for, we want to hear from you. You can find details of how to apply here on the site. Don't be shy!


We have competitions for some great books going this month, and every month, so get entering!

And that's about it for this month. If you're passing Bookbag Towers do pop in and see us – we're at

All at Bookbag Towers

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